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Chef Spotlight
Eli Murphy/Executive Chef - Honeypie

By JEANETTE HURT
Photos by Dan Bishop   

November 2013

Eli Murphy worked in restaurants through high school and college, but after he got his degree he realized he’d still rather be in the kitchen. Murphy worked in the local-food-focused kitchens of Nostrana and Tastebud restaurants in Portland, Ore. before following girlfriend Erika Ehley back to her hometown of Milwaukee. Instead of continuing to work in the kitchen, he decided to go out to the fields of Wellspring Farm in Newburg. Murphy, who is now the executive chef at Honeypie, explains his obsession with root vegetables.
 

Tell me more about your interest in local foods.

"Milwaukee’s a little bit behind Portland in the food scene, but the city is becoming this great up-and-coming farm-to-table community with new, awesome restaurants popping up every day. I think it’s just going to grow from here, and people are beginning to realize what great food Milwaukee has to offer. In Portland, I was introduced to local food, and at Tastebud, we had a mobile, wood-fired oven, and we were cooking on it down at the farmers market each week. That got me interested in farming, and I thought I’d try it out for a while. Working at Wellspring gave me more of an appreciation of where food comes from, and it taught me more about how things are grown, which I’m still terrible at."
 

Were you inspired to garden?

"I have a giant garden. It just doesn’t do as well as others. It’s unbelievable that I produced anything this summer, but I did."
 

How did you land at Honeypie?

"I live just down the street from them, and they were hiring. I loved the fact that they utilized local ingredients, and they’re really the local part of the local restaurant scene. After a year I can say I’m a Bay Viewer."

 

Tell me about your culinary philosophy.

"Keep it fresh, keep it local and keep it simple, and good things will happen. I like to cook vegetables a lot, and the way we do our salads is just awesome. That’s one of my favorite things. We keep it very seasonal here, and we use Growing Power greens, and they are some of the greatest greens out there. The colors are great, they’re super fresh, and outside of providing great produce, Growing Power does other good work. We just started offering our beet salad. We also are doing our apple salad. Apples are in season, and that salad comes with bacon, apples, buttermilk dressing and chives, and then also we add Hook’s 5-year-old cheddar, which really sells it."
 

Vegetables sometimes seem underappreciated by some. 

"I agree 100 percent. People in this country often see them as an afterthought. If they ate more vegetables while they were in season, they would realize that they have such dynamic flavors. Root vegetables — the parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, celery root — I just don’t think they’re very familiar to people. Since they don’t look very good, people get very intimidated. But they’re so versatile in the kitchen. What you can do to a potato, you can almost do to a million different root vegetables, and they’re pretty much available all through the winter because they store very well, which is nice here in Wisconsin because we have a long one."

 





 

This story ran in the November 2013 issue of: